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Adding Red and Yellow Heliconias and Pink Anthuriums


It’s now time to add tropical flowers to the upper tier of the painting. I have begun to block in yellow for two different types of heliconia flowers, seen in the upper right and the upper left. The general colors of the flowers that I will paint today will be yellow, red and pink.

I choose to begin with yellow because it’s a light color and I want to make sure that red doesn’t bleed into the yellow areas for my pendant heliconias that will drop down on the right. I need to keep the yellow pure in these areas. Red is a very strong pigment and adds powerful color with the tiniest of flecks on the brush. I always start these specific flowers with yellow first. I absolutely LOVE pendant heliconias. To me, they are the most exotic flower…wish I could grow them here in my semi-tropical garden in California.

This entire composition comes from flowers that I have photographed either here in my garden of through my travels.

After softly blending the yellow heliconia on the left, I decid to block in colors for the pink anthuriums in the central part of the painting. I’ve taken alizirium crimson, soft mixing white and cadium yellow to create the color variation. You can see from the picture on the right how roughly the colors are blocked. This is my starting base. I’m capturing the hues and tones of the flower in gesture. The next step will be to softly blend the flowers until they look the way that I want them to look.

I’ll then be able to layer a bit of contrast in the form of pure alizirum crimson and add a few highlights with my white.

In the final image, below, you can see the progress for the day. The pink anthuriums are blended and have some depth and add a nice color variation to the scene. They will need to dry before I can layer more color and highlights. I have also painted the red heliconia in the upper left and added the red to my pendant heliconas in the upper right.

In the next set of days, I’ll begin the process of adding more background to this painting. Keep in mind that the flowers are all still in progress and do not yet possess all of their dimension. Painting is illusion and is created thought multiple steps that include backgrounds and layering. This is a rather complex painting. A lot of time has been spent up to this point and a lot more time will go into this piece before it is completed.



Pink Gingers


Here is a pic of what my working palate looks like. I mix my colors freely, utilizing the various tones that naturally combine on the palate as the paint is mixed. Color is very exciting and inspirational to artists. As young as age 15 I can remember being excited to put down the first blocks of color on my watercolor paper. Each new painting represented endless possibilities. Various shades of red in the form of alizarin crimson was usually my starting color of choice. These first brush strokes on white paper were always the most vibrant.

Today my go-to color will be a pale pink made from magenta and soft mixing white. Various shades of pink are laid onto the canvas, loosely, to for the background painting of the pink ginger flowers.

Shapes for the pink ginger leaves are painted. These leaves are important to my composition. They break and divide the vast white space of the canvas to make interesting shapes and lines. Painting is illusion.

I step back frequently to view the overall effects of this budding composition. This helps to ensure that my flowers and leaves are in proportion to one another. It’s important to make sure that your colors are also balanced.

The next step will be to begin filling the background color for the leaves. The pink ginger leaves will have a slightly different base of color from the bird of paradise leaves. I want these leaves to be a little more on the yellow side, I want them to be a little brighter in color and their veins will be smaller. These leaves will also be a little thinner.

I want to capture the movement and essence of each leaf. To do this, I vary the intensity of greens and yellows. I’ve also begun to blend the blocks of colors softly. This gives the leaves the right effect to make the leaves convincing.

The pink ginger flowers look flat at this point. I’m working a rather large section of this canvas all at once so I’m not yet adding detail to the flowers. This will come later, when this first base of paint is dry. I will then be able to layer colors of greater intensity to help create the illusion of depth in the flowers. Bright highlights will be the final touches.

What I can do at this point, after all of my pink ginger leaves have been painted, is add the veins that help to bring character to the leaves. You can see detail in the central leaves in the photo to the right.

My leaf detailing process usually begins while my leaves are still wet. My brush grabs contrasting colors from my palate, usually pure color of my sap green, and then my brush freely adds the line, capturing the gesture of the leaf. All of these tropical leaves that are featured in this scene have similarities. The differences lie within the colors and the detailing. It’s these differences that make a leaf look like it belongs to a pink ginger as opposed to a red heliconia or a bird of paradise.

The pink ginger leaves must appear lighter and more delicate next to the tougher, broader leaves of the birds of paradise. In the future I will return to these leaves and add extreme highlights, shadows and burn spots in the form of orange and brown sections that have been burn by the sun.  These marks will add a lovely dimension to the leaves of this section.

It’s important for me to finish painting this section of leaves so that this part of the painting dries at the same rate. At a glance, I’ve completed a big section of this painting. I’m off to a good start and will be well ahead of my completion deadline if I continue to work steadily through the next couple of weeks. You can see from this photo that I finished adding veins to the pink ginger leaves and I also went back in and layered transparent magenta to the ginger flowers go give them a boost in depth. These flowers and leaves will still receive detailing (described above) once this section is dry.


Let’s Paint!


Now for the fun part—let’s paint!

STEP 1: I have chosen to begin this mural with the birds of paradise. They compose a large section of this mural and I’m going to use the leaves and dramatic shapes of this exotic South African flower to ground this piece.

The image on the left shows my first approach. I am using the gesture of this wildly exotic flower to build a sense of energy on the canvas. Gesture is the essence of a shape. My brush and experience allow me to quickly capture the first shapes of this flower. You can see how large these flowers are compared to my palate.

STEP 2: I am now going to begin adding color and depth to the main ‘body’ of the bird of paradise flowers. I happen to know from experience that these flowers come in many color combinations. I like to choose colors that inspire me and I’ve chosen to begin with some magenta toned down with soft mixing white along the top part of the flower. The bottom parts of the flower have blues, greens and purples. Large tropical leaves will be painted where the flowers abruptly cut out of the scene. You can see that the first leaf is already in progress in the lower right.

To be more specific, the paint that I prefer to use is Windsor & Newton and I mostly stick to the Artist Series, which is the professional division of this paint brand. I like their colors and have been familiar with their color palate from my decades as a watercolor painter. The colors that I am using are: Sap Green, Windsor Violet, Indian Yellow, Permanent Magenta, Cobalt Blue and Soft Mixing White (which falls under the Winton brand).

STEP 3: The leaves can be painted with large brushes. Sap Green and Soft Mixing White are the primary colors that I am using. You can also see that I’ve filled in and softly blended the main colors of my flowers. I am using the small brush for detailing the lines in the leaves. I’ve paid careful attention to natural highlights in the leaves. The highlights and the shapes give my leaves a natural three-dimensional feeling. I am not a fan of flat looking tropical leaves that are often seen in murals with tropical flowers. I like my leaves to be large and flowing.

The central vein of this particular leaf tends to be a soft greenish or yellowish color though I have seen these leaves have veins of red and magenta as well. The outer edges can have yellow, orange and burn umber colors. All of this adds character. Because this is a very large painting I am making the decision to capture the general feeling of these flowers first. At a later point I will come in and add detailing and extra color to the leaves and flowers. Such details will include super bright highlights as well as dark lines where the leaves are burned by the sun. 

This image shows the progress of the first section of this painting. To the beginners out there: I’ve been painting seriously for over 20 years and am quite fast because this is what I do full-time. My natural style of painting allows me to capture the essence of objects pretty well within the fist sitting. When this section is dry I will return for additional layering of color and detail.


Creating the Drawing


How did this concept materialize? To make a long story short, I worked with interior designers who liked my tropical flower paintings. They specified the size (roughly 9’x12′) for this project. I then presented three different concepts that were mocked-up in Photoshop and one was chosen. I then refined the chosen concept in my studio by adding more flowers. The subject for this large scale oil painting that will unfold is a very complex tropical jungle flower scene that is not unlike some of my other paintings in the genera.

All of the flowers are from my personal source photographs that have been taken over the years. I travel for my subjects and am known for my tropical flower and island landscape paintings. A big part of enjoyment from my travels is capturing new ideas that serve as my inspiration for future paintings.

The way that many muralists transfer their subjects onto the wall is by projecting them and then tracing the outlines. Some muralists could spend a couple days just tracing shapes from their projections but this won’t be the case for me. My patience isn’t that strong for projection and my preference and strength in painting has always been my ability to paint freestyle without many lines. I enjoy creating gesture through my brush strokes and I need this freedom especially considering that I’ll be working from photographs. The true bummer for me is that this ‘mural’ is too big to project in my downstairs studio. Even though my room is very large I cannot move my projector away far enough from the wall to even come close for this image to be projected properly.

That brings me to the other way that a small image can be transferred to a large space: the old fashioned grid system. This is not my preference because it is time consuming but my good fortune is that I developed very strong drawing skills. What I will do is print out my concept, divide the space evenly to give me a grid of 16 squares. I’ll then divide my wall canvas to 16 squares. Now I will copy rough lines that are in each square. I can see where angles and lines intersect according to the space. The image above shows me utilizing a level to keep my grid straight.

Because I am anxious to begin painting, I will choose to draw as I go. This is a good example of quickly thinking outside the box, literally, to solve a very big problem. Though it’s a bummer that I cannot use the projector for this project, I’ll turn it into a positive by allowing myself to better adjust my flowers shapes and sizes to the scale of this painting.

My overall goals for this piece is to create a large oil painting on canvas in my developed style…and to try to enjoy the process. It will have the same true quality as all of my works. It will have a lot of vibrant colors and flowers that are found in the tropics. It will have an area that opens up to more sunlight where the eye can ‘rest’ and ideally all of the flowers will be above the line of a table setting. This last part is important in terms of function for this painting and you will see why at the end of this project.

Young artists: this is a really good reason why you should learn to draw well. I remember in college certain groups of students who did more conceptual art than I who waited to take their single advanced drawing class until senior year (and boy were they poor at drawing). On the other hand, I had taken a full year of advanced drawing that started in the spring quarter of my freshman year and I still use those learned skills every time my brush hits the canvas.

Jenny Floravita Canvas Primer A12114611

Priming the 9’x12′ canvas


Primer, also commonly referred to as Gesso, is fundamental to an oil painting. It provides the ground for the paint to stick to the surface. Priming a canvas requires several coats of thin layers of primer.

What is an artist primer? For those of you who are unfamiliar with artist terms, Wikipedia explains the concept of Gesso best. You can read more about the difference types of gessos here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gesso#Acrylic_gesso

The first layer goes on slower than the subsequent layers because it has to get into all of the micro-fiber grooves of the canvas. This is a large surface so I am applying the primer much in the same way that one would paint an interior wall. Again, this first layer is very thin and meticulously applied. I’ve opened all of my surrounding windows for ventilation. Fans can and will be used to push air through the space, to ventilate and help protect me from some of the toxicity that I will be exposed to through the entire process of this piece.

As the primer dries the canvas tightens up and all of the remaining creases disappear, leaving behind a perfect surface in which to begin my oil mural.

The picture of me standing in front of the canvas gives a good size reference.

Tropical Flower Mural Canvas Up A12014481

Canvas is up, ready to be primed


Warning: this is an anti-mini painting…contrary to the name of my painting blog which has chronicled my Mini Master island paintings since 2006, both here and on my former Blogger blog.

This is the next step. The canvas is up and is ready to be primed. Pinning the canvas to the wall was a two-person job and my husband was of great help! Our goal was to get the canvas as tight as possible. Primer, which I will explain in my next post will help to further tighten the canvas, creating a smooth surface in which to paint.

I awoke this morning, very aware of how much work and commitment I have in this project. This is a painting for an interior design showcase that is also a fundraiser and of course will take a tremendous amount of time away from my personal business of creating custom reverse painted glass chandeliers and my ‘regular’ tropical island and flower oil and watercolor paintings. A lot of my work right now is commission based. Technically I’m in the middle of 5 different commissions for my painted chandeliers. I will have to structure and use my time well in the next month!

The round objects with bubble wrap on my floor are actually chandelier bowls that are painted on the inside…and you can see that paintings leaning on my grand piano aren’t small either though they are by no means as large as this mural will be.

My approach on this painting will be to work intensively every day until finished.

Figuring Tropical Flower Mural Canvas A12014441

The Making of an Oil Mural


Warning: this is an anti-mini painting…contrary to the name of my painting blog which has chronicled my Mini Master island paintings since 2006, both here and on my former Blogger blog.

I’d like to share the process of creating a large Oil Mural. This will be an intense and large project and will consume a very big part of the next few weeks of my work. Unlike most murals—which are done with house paints, acrylics and on walls—this is an actual oil painting on canvas. I’ve chosen this way to work because I am most comfortable and fluent in oil painting and I prefer the way oil moves on canvas. Oil takes longer to dry so I’ve planned for that in my time-frame.

My downstairs studio gallery has two large walls and I choose the one wall that would give my eye access to looking outside as my preference is to work and be able to see through a space to nature. All of my home studio work spaces, including my office are designed with this in mind. Though this isn’t my largest wall, it will do.

The rough size of this mural is 9’x12′. Artists, you can purchase a large canvas like this through www.dickblick.com The canvas has been cut to size and will be ironed to take out the creases. Upon looking at the size of this canvas, I think I’ll have to order more primer!

Waimea Plantation Cottage painting by artist Jenny Floravita

Painting Paradise in Oil, Waimea Plantation Cottages, Kauai art


Waimea Plantation Cottage painting by artist Jenny FloravitaPainting paradise in oil is what I do best. Here is yet another painting in my series about the Waimea Plantation Cottages. It is a small oil painting. Most of these small oils sell through my spring and summer art festivals in California. They remind my collectors of their homes in the islands and of their travels.

I love the movement and gesture of the palms as they sway in the wind. I love the mature bamboo groves and the lush gardens that swell with heliconias, gingers, hibiscus, plumeria and bananas, to name a few.

I love the stories behind these little cottages. I love how my brushes will allow for a lose style when I paint these small island cottages.

If any of you have stayed in these little gems, feel free to share your stories through comments.

JuliH FlowerWall

Lovely Tropical Flowers Grace Collector’s Dining Room Wall

Tropical Flower oil paintings by artist Jenny Floravita

Tropical Flower oil paintings by artist Jenny Floravita

This is a beautiful example of how to space three, tall slender paintings on a long wall. The dimensions for each of these oil paintings is 18″36″.

Kauai Waimea Plantation Cottage Art 6 111

Life in the Islands, waimea plantation cottage, Kauai island


Life in the Tropics, an oil painting by Jenny Floravita

This is the time of year where I try to assess when I’d like for my body of work to go. This next year, starting with the fall season, I think I will be honing in on: tropical flowers, island cottage paintings inspired by the Waimea Plantation Cottages and perhaps coastal California scenes.

As a working artist I often feel torn within the different bodies of work that I create. All have a similar theme, being the good life that is represented by life in the islands. Working in both oil and watercolor also presents challenges in terms of picking with medium to focus a body of work within…not to mention my hand created, reverse painted glass chandeliers which require a tremendous amount of work.

The painting above is another one of my Walmea Plantation Cottage paintings and it is titled Life in the Islands. If I do a series based on these small island cottage paintings then the works will be larger.

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